Skip to main content

I’ve been thinking about how ineffectual change is if people aren’t included. We can have the best intentions, but if you’re coming from a ‘this will be good for you’ approach, its doomed to fail.

And yet a lot of our organisational and social polices come from this place. 

In many countries you can find empty schools in areas desperately needing education, or schools with kids in them but no teachers. So what’s going on? A building isn’t the answer to low education levels in India. Some parents are not convinced on the advantage school is over their kids earning some money working in the field.  From their perspective, they’ve got children who can work in the field for few rupees a day, versus not having that and going to school for some uncertain future. So for schools to work, parents need to be bought into a conversation about the value of education. When they get it, they’re in.

I see similar situations in the organisations I work with. Humans are not cogs in a wheel, and yet sometimes under pressure, people double down on telling others what to do, or expecting outcomes without clear parameters and timelines. We try to dominate and wrangle the chaos, instead of inviting partnership and ownership with people, who together can help elevate the circumstance and design the most appropriate response. 

Yet distrust of others is really high, especially in environments when we have a lot of competing priorities. We either think ‘it will be better if I do it’, or if we are the object of someone’s demands, we feel resentful, not understood, and disempowered. It feels easier to sit back and let others do it.

These are all very human responses, but they come from an old view of leadership. Let’s shift the script on leadership, and move from:

  • Leadership is something that is given to you, like a title, or a role
  • Leaders look a certain way (and not like me)
  • Some people can lead, but most can’t, and that’s the way it is

A leader is someone who sees an issue, or challenge, or something they care about – and they take action to resolve that issue.

With this perspective on leadership, we all have the capacity to lead. And by lead, I mean make a difference and have an impact in something that’s important to you. You don’t need the title, or even something to lead. You take ownership and responsibility for something – your workplace culture, solving a particular problem for a customer that might require new protocols, an unhealthy family dynamic – and lead to get it resolved.

You can view leadership like an electricity current. When you flick the switch the light comes on. When you flick it again it goes off. The current – the potential for electricity – is always present.

Leadership is the same way! Every human being has access to leadership potential – it’s either activated or dormant, but the potential is there.

When leadership is activated, people are taking action, resolving issues, impacting, and experience their own energy and vitality in shaping the world that they want. 

When leadership is dormant, the potential is just lying there under the surface, not yet switched on or activated. Dormant leadership can look like apathy, feeling resigned and frustrated, and cynicism.

Where are you sitting in your leadership? Are you making the impact you want? Is your leadership activated?

What about the people around you? Do you approach your team and organisation with a reimagined view on leadership? Do you see their potential? Are you helping them activate their leadership?